Updated: Feb 23, 2019
Although your blood lipid test plays an important role in determining your risk for cardiovascular disease, it does not paint the full picture. Knowing your overall cholesterol, HDL (High Density Lipoprotein, often inappropriately known as 'Good Cholesterol') and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein, often inappropriately known as the 'Bad Cholesterol') numbers do not provide the critical information on the dangerous inflammation present in the walls of your arteries. As a personal trainer who has been advising people on how to manage cholesterol and maintain good health, I often have to update them on the latest scientific information.
LDL is demonized (1) because of their supposed role in atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries characterized by the deposition of fatty material on their inner walls). There are people with very high LDL who never get heart attacks. And those with low LDL that do. Why is that? Here's a kicker:
the real bad guy is called 'Oxidised LDL' or OxLDL. It is when your LDL particles become damaged through oxidization process.
See video below for explanation.
Non-oxidized LDL (still unarmed and innocent, in fact they are still very beneficial) is just a protein carrying cholesterol and fats from the liver to the rest of the body for various functions. For LDL particles to cause disease, they have to be small and dense and able to enter the wall of your arteries. Once inside the cells, fats in the LDL particles react with free radicals (the bad influence) and OxLDL is formed. Now, they have become evil and ready to wreak havoc...
When LDL oxidizes it damages the arterial wall, it will cause the arteries to get clogged and they may progressively become narrower and limit blood flow to vital organs such as the heart or brain, putting one at risk for stroke and heart attack! On top of that, OxLDL may also increase the triglycerides level, as well as increasing the amount of fat deposited.
Statistically, people with high OxLDL are 4x more likely to develop heart-related issues in the next five years (2).
Now you know OxLDL is the real terror. Can we do anything about it?
1) Consume less foods / Reduce habits that triggers inflammation.
Limit your intake of pro-inflammatory foods like: sugar or food with added
processed food in general
Examples: soft drinks, non-100% juices, 3-in-1 coffee, packaged foods, fried foods, cake, white bread, bagels, donuts, beer, and pizza.
Reduce / Eliminate
Exposure to toxins through pollution
2) Rest and Relax
Participating activities that lower anxiety and avoiding those activities that stresses you out, is a great way to reduce inflammation by lowering the cortisol level. Time to sleep more, take breaks and chill out.
3) Eat Anti-inflammatory foods.
Next, you need to eat a healthy diet which contains sufficient amount of antioxidants which will inhibit the oxidation of LDL, hence reducing the inflammation process. There are three main nutrients that do this:
Vitamin A and E, and Lycopene. Foods that contain high amount of these nutrients are listed here:
Vitamin A: carrots, berries, apricots, papaya, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, kale, mangoes, eggs, butter, milk and cheeses, cod liver oil and organ meats like liver.
Vitamin E: almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado, and sunflower seeds.
Lycopene: tomatoes, watermelon. grapefruit. guavas. papaya, asparagus. and red cabbage.
Need to organise a science-based nutrition talk Singapore for your organisation or hire a medical personal trainer Singapore to help transform your health with our medical personal training program that includes managing your cholesterol? Contact us.
Holvoet P et al. Association between circulating oxidized low-density lipoprotein and incidence of the metabolic syndrome. JAMA. 2008;